School attendance is mandated by Indiana law. However, there are students and parents who might see it differently.
Western Boone and Lebanon school corporations view truancy in different lights.
Brent Miller, principal of Western Boone Jr.-Sr. High School, said chronic absenteeism is more prevalent than truancy.
Chronic absenteeism, as defined by the Indiana Department of Education attendance guidelines, is where a student misses 10 percent or more of the school year. Truancy is when a student skips school without a parent's or guardian's knowledge.
Jon Compton, assistant principal of WeBo, said parents/guardians are to call the school when a student is absent. If no phone call is received, he said office staff starts calling parents/guardians in between 9 and 9:30 a.m.
For every day that a student misses, they owe seven make up hours to the school.
After four days missed, the school sends an email to parents. At eight days missed, a letter is sent. If a student misses more than eight days in a semester, they are required to have a doctor’s note. At 10 days, the School Resource Officer is involved and calls are made to the parents. At 18 days, suspension and expulsion become reality. Any time 10 percent of the school year is missed, the school corporation reports it to the sheriff’s office, Compton said.
“Students who are habitually truant or chronically absent will be reported to the intake officer and the Department of Child Services,” according to the WeBo student handbook.
Missing school affects school performance drastically, Miller said, adding that students do not have the instruction or ability to ask questions face to face when they miss school.
When a student is chronically absent, their reading level may not be where it should be, Compton added.
Many times the parents could be taken to court to turn up the heat before the students are removed from the school, Miller said.
For Lebanon schools, 'chronic absenteeism' is not mentioned in the student handbook.
However, if excessive absences or tardiness occur, Lebanon school's truancy officer will refer the matter to the juvenile court system and guarantee the safety of the child, according to the Hattie B. Stokes Elementary School student handbook.
This is the first year that they have an assigned School Resource Officer for truancy. The truancy officers attempt to hand-deliver letters to the parents, informing them of their child’s unexcused school days.
If a parent is not at home, the letter is left at their door.
"If there's a vehicle in the driveway, we can run the license plate," Lebanon School’s Chief of Police Steve Smith said.
The process is different for elementary students versus high school students in regards to unexcused absences.
In a semester, at five unexcused absences, a letter is delivered to the parents. At 10 unexcused absences, a second letter will be delivered, notifying of referral to the Boone County Division of Family and Children Services could be initiated, according to the student handbook.
The handbook also states that the school will contact the parent or guardian on unexcused absences one through four. On the second unexcused absence, a parent or guardian will be required to meet with school administration. On the fourth unexcused absence, the parent or guardian and the student will be referred to the juvenile court system.
High school students have more to lose.
Tuesday or Thursday school is assigned on the first three unexcused absences. Parents are contacted with the first two unexcused absences. On the third through fifth unexcused absence, a conference is required. On the fourth and fifth unexcused absence, the student will receive out of school suspension. Also, suspension of driving privledges will be sent to the BMV on the fourth unexcused absence. The parent or student will be referred to the prosecutor’s office at the fifth and sixth unexcused absence. An expulsion waiver will begin on the fifth absence and expulsion will continue on the sixth unexcused absence, according to the Lebanon High School student handbook.
Not attending classes leads to gaps in education which can lead to behavioral issues, Roberto DeLaRosa, assistant principal of Hattie B. Stokes, said.
Students could fail classes or not be on the same graduation track as they once were.
“If they are not in school, they're not learning,” DeLaRosa, said.
This is the fourth installment in a series of 'What happens when' by Casey Touloukian. If you have an idea for a future article, contact Touloukian by calling 765-482-4650 ext. 116 or by emailing to email@example.com.